Tag Archives: San Francisco real estate

What Argentina Taught Me About Home

“Argentines are Italians who speak Spanish who think they are British.” ~ unknown

There’s nothing like traveling abroad to refresh one’s perspective on life back home. It’s been more than a month since I returned from a wonderful vacation and – before I forget – here are the lessons learned about HOME from my sojourn in Argentina.

Wood is good. Old wood is especially good.
Argentines haven’t gotten the memo about painting out or replacing all the wood in their houses, hotels and restaurants. It’s everywhere and in every condition from rotting away to brand new, and there’s something very comforting about it.

In the kitchen, simplicity is a gift.
Having the latest appliance or gadget doesn’t count for a fig when it comes to making scrumptious food. In the Airbnbs where we stayed, we’d find a hot plate, running water, an electric kettle, a refrigerator, at least one decent knife and a good bottle of olive oil. Never a dishwasher, seldom a microwave, sometimes an oven. We nonetheless ate well when we cooked at home, and enjoyed the simplicity and lack of fuss prompted by the pared-down equipment.

Bidets rock.
I was sad to come home and see the toilet sitting there all by itself. How lovely to have the companionship and convenience of a bidet. So civilized. So European. (Americans don’t get it.)

San Francisco groundwork such as sidewalks and streets are (relatively) fantastic.
One of our guides mentioned that jay-walking is a sport in Argentina. Well, plain-ol-walking in Argentine towns and cities challenges one’s physical fortitude. If you aren’t vigilant and wearing sensible shoes, you’ll end up in a hole or a ditch or the hospital.

Same goes for roads and highway infrastructure.
In Argentina, they don’t “need no stinking” road signs. On the day we were flying back home, it’s good we had a six-hour window to make the one-hour trip to the Buenos Aires International Airport in our rental car (admittedly, sans GPS). I won’t go into detail; let’s just say it was an adventure.

Americans aren’t friendly.
We’d heard about the Argentine reputation for arrogance, but didn’t experience that firsthand. Instead we were struck by how very friendly everyone was. Cheerful, helpful, kind, generous and possessed of a playful sense of humor.

It takes a lot of Argentine pesos to get around.
I felt rich carrying two-inch wad of bills – 5s, 10s, 20s, 100s and 500s. When you consider that the exchange rate was then roughly 15.6 pesos to 1 USD, you’ll understand why.

The wine is fine.
And relatively inexpensive, and offered throughout the day. Going for a swim? How would you like a glass of champagne poolside? Going for a horseback ride? May we bring you a nice Sauvignon Blanc as you dismount? Checking in to your hotel? How about a pour of Malbec while you sign this form? And if you don’t care for wine, may we bring you a beer?

Argentine dogs are something else altogether.
We encountered plenty of dogs that were leashed and pampered and treated as beloved pets. But there are semi-feral dogs roaming free everywhere, and my partner learned – the hard way – the meaning of the expression “Let sleeping dogs lie.” Don’t interrupt a wild dog’s nap to snap a silly photo of him on your cell phone. He’ll tear your leg off.

I want a Parilla.
Everybody in Argentina seems to have a built-in, brick-walled, wood-fired BBQ in their yard. And they really know how to cook chicken and meat. If I had a parilla here in San Francisco, I’d roast some vegetables too.

And a six-pack of Quilmes
Quilmes Cristal quickly became our local beer of choice. (It’s also the choice of 75% of Argentine beer drinkers.) Founded in 1888 by a German immigrant, the name comes from an indigenous tribe of people who fought off the Incas for 100+ years and then resisted the Spaniards for 100+ years, only to be systematically eradicated. Only a few Quilmes people remain today, while their name is displayed prominently in every grocery store, bar and restaurant in the country. Sound familiar?

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

 

It’s Raining

When sellers fill out a Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement in advance of listing a house for sale, I often hear something like this:

“Remember that huge rainstorm we had last winter? Right around Valentine’s Day? Some water came in along the bottom of this window. See? But, you know, the wind was blowing in this funny direction. It never blows that way. So we think it was a freaky one-time occurrence. Do we need to disclose it?”

“Yes, you need to disclose it,” I will say.

Then my client will ask, “So how do I disclose that? What do I write?”

And I reply, “Write down what you just told me, but don’t theorize about the cause of the leak or suggest it was a freaky one-time occurrence.”

In other words, when it comes to disclosure, there’s no need to put any spin on the truth.

And when in doubt, dear Sellers, ask yourselves, “If we were buying this house, what would we want to know?” Common sense and kindness go a long way toward protecting everyone involved and upholding the spirit of the law regarding disclosure.
However, full disclosure doesn’t mean a new homeowner isn’t going to have water intrusion problems. When rain comes pounding down for 7 weeks in a row, all that water is going to figure out some new places to go.

It’ll makes it way through foundation walls when the earth becomes saturated. It’ll overflow a lightwell when the drain gets overwhelmed or clogged. It’ll creep in the gap created when the wind blew a couple of roof shingles away.

The problem with water intrusion is that it can be mysterious and difficult to diagnose accurately. Better to have a roof leak – usually easily pinpointed and its resolution pretty clear – than a slow-spreading stain down an interior wall or a puzzling puddle in the basement.

In my role as the always-available real estate concierge, I can help. I can’t (usually) stop the water myself, but I can refer you to appropriate tradespeople. Just give me a call, and remember that eventually wet turns to dry. One way or another.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com. 

A Winner In The Cards For You

In an increasingly DIY world, buying real estate is a rare exception to the self-serve rule. You can enjoy attentive, committed, knowledgeable service – and it’s free.

Having a guide and ally – your agent – representing you makes for a less stressful and much more rewarding experience. And there are so many agents with so many different styles. Find one whose personality suits you!

Finding the best buyer’s agent in San Francisco 

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com

Realtor Candy Hearts

You know what I’m talking about. Those pastel-colored heart-shaped sugar lumps stamped with blurry all-caps hashtag-able messages:

BEAR HUG
CLOUD NINE
BE MINE
MY STAR
BEES KNEES

I want the real estate advertisement set.

NEW ON MKT
PANO VU
REDUCED
JUST SOLD
EXCLUSIVE

Or the escrow and lending set.

EARNEST $
COE
WIRE FRAUD
SIGN MY DOC
NO POINTS

Or the real estate/Valentines hybrid with sentiments appropriate for both property-marketing or online-dating purposes.

BE MINE
FALL IN LOVE
PRICELESS
I’M YOURS
JUST LISTED

Or the slightly risqué real estate/Valentine hybrid

MOVE IN
INITIAL DEPOSIT
WET SIGNATURE
ONE OWNER
BIG DECK

Please be my Valentine and send me your favorite candy-heart inscriptions! I’d love to do a follow-up to this post and list them there.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

Catering to the Client

The job experience that best prepared me for a future as a Realtor was the year I spent working for a caterer in the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho.

During that stint, I filled every available role except accounting and planning. I did shopping, ordering, recipe research, food prep and rental management. I worked as server, hostess, cocktail waitress, dishwasher, cook, busboy, sommelier and buckwheat crepe maker.

My boss Susan ran her business out of her house a few miles south of town. In the winter months, her garage served as walk-in cooler and freezer. Especially between Thanksgiving and New Year’s when we had at least one and sometimes three or four parties every day. I’d arrive at Susan’s before breakfast and work all day and night, pausing only to change out of my cooking clothes and into my waiting clothes.

I learned how to be adaptive, attentive and ready to do whatever odd task was essential. That might mean inspecting freshly killed ducks for shotgun pellets. Or putting a client’s kids to bed because the babysitter was a no-show. Or delivering pumpkin pies in a snowstorm.

I particularly recall a New Year’s Eve gig for a famous Motown diva who was wintering in a large and lavish ski “cabin” near Dollar Mountain. She wanted goose with all the trimmings for dinner, followed by brunch the next day. For 50 of her closest friends.

The Wood River Valley was experiencing a cold snap. Cold enough that we’d been chilling wine all week by just setting it outside for half an hour. Cold enough that Susan’s old Suburban wouldn’t start unless it had been plugged into an engine heater. Cold enough that we had to figure out how to safely defrost six frozen (plastic-sealed) geese that had been stored in a snow bank on the shady side of the house.

The solution was to put them in Susan’s bathtub, with some cold water, where they would gradually thaw without blooming with salmonella. It was the only bathroom in the house and the geese needed to defrost for at least 24 hours.

On the day before the diva’s party, I spent the morning prepping bouillabaisse for 100 – up to my elbows in fish and garlic and grossed out from all the shrimp deveining I’d done. It was imperative that I shower before heading out to tend bar and serve food.

So I ended up taking a cold shower while straddling the cold geese in Susan’s cold tub in cold water up over my cold ankles.

And while my job as a Realtor can be quite lovely and even glamorous, there are always times when I have to improvise and do the job nobody else wants to do: Use a paper clip to unlock the bedroom door where an open-house visitor has inadvertently trapped the tenants’ cats. Clean up raccoon poop from the tradesway. Persuade a homeless person to find another doorway to sleep in. Unclog a commode. Shine up a splattered kitchen faucet using toilet paper. Put an onion in the oven to mask last night’s fish smell.

Whatever it takes. Whatever is needed. I know how to cater, and I can shower with frozen geese.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

There’s Always a Piano

“The secret to humor is surprise.” ~ Aristotle

Conversely, the secret to navigating a surprise is humor – especially when it comes to something unexpected in a real estate transaction.

One scrap of wisdom I share at the outset with new clients is this: There will be at least one moment during this process when something is unexpected and upsetting. It isn’t a matter of IF it will happen. It’s a matter of WHAT and WHEN.

As a Realtor, I am Navigator of the deal. I unroll a map of the Transaction and highlight a route to Closing. I know most of the twists and turns by heart. And I deftly steer around new bumps and barricades. Yet there is always a pothole I don’t see before driving over or into it.

These holes along the highway take many forms (or so I have seen).

The mortgage one-more-thing: On the day before signing lender requires that Buyer’s car lease be paid off in full.

The insurance Catch 22: Buyer can’t obtain loan and close escrow without insurance in place. But insurance company says circuit breakers must be installed before house can be insured. So Seller must have the circuit breakers installed prior to closing. Yet property is a probate and Seller is deceased. And Buyer doesn’t have a contingency for insurability because the insurance companies just dreamed this new policy up a month ago.

The unimaginable: Buyer has a brain aneurism on the day before closing.

The catastrophic: Loma Prieta comes knockin’ and the house goes rockin’ off its foundation just after Buyer waives inspection contingency.

The governmental: The IRS decides to begin scrutinizing a formerly-ignored form called a TRDBV required by mortgage lenders. TRDBV stands for Tax Return Database. (I’m not sure what the “V” connotes and I don’t really care and I hope you never have to find out yourself.) Buyers drop everything (including their jobs) to go stand in line at the local IRS office for hours. And HOURS.

The feral: During a final walk-through, Buyer steps onto the roof and into a pile of raccoon poop.

The emotional: Soon-to-be-divorced yet cheery Seller goes silent in the week before closing. Refuses to sign closing papers. Will not return agent’s or attorney’s phone calls. Will not answer doorbell. Emails escrow officer that she’s changed her mind.

The economic: Seller’s employer withdraws offer of new position on the East Coast just after Seller accepts Buyer’s all-cash, no-contingency offer with a 14-day closing.

The watery: Closing is December 30th. Huge storm – the first of the season – crushes Bay Area on December 31st. Buyers call shortly before midnight, but not to wish me a Happy New Year. They are crying loudly. I realize, however, that their tears are not the cause of the dripping sound in the background.

The musical: Several days prior to closing, piano-owning Buyers realize they missed the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions ban on pianos in the condo building. As we search for a possible music-friendly solution, I remind the impatient Sellers, “There’s always a piano.”

Yes indeed.  In every transaction, “there’s always a piano.”

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This was re-posted at McGuire.com.

True Real Estate Tales

by Bogdan Dada

Two months ago, my newsletter featured a post about the inevitable surprises that arise during real estate transactions. (You can read it by clicking here.)

In the interim, new astonishments have risen, written their stories and become the stuff of legend.

There was the hair-raising Case of the Too-Fast Closing.

And the confusing Case of the Car Included in the Sale.

And who can forget the just-plain-dumb Case of the Last-Minute Pre-Closing Lender Requirement to Paint a 2’ x 4’ Patch of Exterior Wood Siding.

The latest thriller I’ve encountered is one I’m entitling the Case of the Emotional Roller Coaster of Trying to Buy a Bank-Owned House. It bears telling, though some details have been changed to prevent identification of property or players.

The house in question was a cozy storybook cottage in a quaint San Francisco neighborhood. It had languished on the market for 45 days at a too-high price of $1,000,000.

Jack and Jill – the cutest couple of first-time homebuyers you’d ever want to meet – encountered the house on a hot, sunny, slow-open-house Sunday. It was love at first sight.

(I’m talking about the sort of love that’s reserved for the runt of the litter down at the SPCA. The house was going to need some grooming and fattening up, but its basic bones and personality were great.)

Jack, Jill and I talked it over and decided to write an offer. Soon, the horror began.

Monday, 9:00 am: We offered $975,000 ($25,000 less than asking) with clean terms. Sensible.

1:00 pm. The listing agent called me to say the bank (which owned the property) was considering our offer. Encouraging.

Tuesday, 9:00am: The bank countered us at $999,000. Discouraging.

12:00 pm: We restated our offer of $975,000. Persistent.

1:00 pm: The bank agreed verbally to $975,000. Amazing.

4:00 pm: The bank sent its version of the contract for Jack and Jill to sign. Bureaucratic.

4:05 pm: Jack and Jill signed the contract and I prepared to return it to the bank for signature. Procedural.

4:15 pm: The listing agent informed us the deal was off because a competing offer had been submitted by another agent in the listing office! Bummer.

5:00 pm: The bank countered Jack and Jill and the competing offer with a simultaneous “highest and best” demand. Depressing.

Tuesday, 9:00 am: The listing agent called to say the bank had changed its mind and was honoring and accepting our $975,000 offer after all! Wonderful.

9:15 am: The listing agent called to say the bank had changed its mind again and wanted our “highest and best” instead. Cruel.

11 am: Jack and Jill submitted their highest and best offer of $1,05,000. Courageous.

5 pm: The listing agent called to say that the competing offer from his/her colleague’s clients was just a little higher and just a little better than Jack and Jill’s highest and best. Utterly deflating and upsetting.

And so the tale ends. Jack and Jill will not be buying THAT cozy storybook cottage, but I trust we will soon find a far superior house in which they will live happily ever after – or at least until it’s time to upsize.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This entry was re-posted at the McGuire Real Estate blog.

 

 

 

Vacation, anyone?

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Especially if Jack is trying to buy property in San Francisco.

Jill needs a break, too. Especially if she is representing Jack in the search for his dream home.

Residential real estate is a 24/7 deal. Successful Realtors (unlike doctors, lawyers and maybe even Indian chiefs) are on call all the time. So are buyers. You might say our motto is “We Never Close.” Continue reading Vacation, anyone?

If you’re looking for a San Francisco agent, know what’s in the cards.

They hearken back to ancient Egypt, with images like those on the walls of the chambers beneath the Sphinx.

They mirror the androgynous Hindu god Ardhanari who holds in its arms objects similar to swords, discs, cups and wands.

They are linked to Fez, ancient Greece and Morocco, and were popular – then banned – in 15th Century Italy.

But did you know that the cards of the Tarot can help you choose a Realtor to represent you in San Francisco? Watch this video to learn how.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

This post was also featured on McGuire’s blog.

Home: Where We Start and End

I’ve written a lot about how a house is not just an investment. How a house is, first and foremost, your home. It’s the sanctuary where you do your LIVING.

And – if you get any say in the matter – it’s where you do your DYING.

If I’ve killed your real-estate buzz with talk of death, please forgive but don’t forget.

In your house, you will celebrate birthdays, host Thanksgiving dinners, and bring home your new baby. You will also endure illnesses, recover from accidents, and overcome crises. Your rooms will ring with laughter, but also with crying.

Viewed through this lens, your list of requisites may change. That big entertainment space may become less essential than a quiet bedroom and a cozy bathroom with a heated toilet seat.

Or you may say, “Who cares about the toilet seat? As Prince sang, ‘Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last.’ Give me the loft space with no rules about quiet hours!”

I’m not suggesting that thoughts about life’s end should drive your real estate decisions. Yet it’s wise not to focus exclusively on the deal (price, interest rates, competition, resale potential), the décor (remodeling choices, having the latest and greatest), or validation from others (your parents’ approval, your friends’ admiration, your colleagues’ envy).

Just take time to get clear on the meaning of “home.” As in what “home” means to YOU.

After all, as T. S. Eliot wrote, “Home is where one starts from.”

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire.  For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

This post was also featured on McGuire: http://www.mcguire.com/blog/2016/04/home-where-we-start-and-end/